Ever since I thru hiked North Americas 2653-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2004, Ive been itching to get another long distance route under my belt or rather, beneath the soles of my trail shoes.
Its been just a tad frustrating to come to the real-life realisation that I cant just drop everything and fly off to the States again to hike, say, the 3100-mile Continental Divide as easily as I did the PCT. The PCT hike was a dream come true; right now Ive other dreams to be living out exciting ones, yes, but dreams that cant be measured in miles.
So Ive been paying more than a little attention to the Governments proposal to increase our rights of access to the English and Welsh coastlines. Here, by-the-seaside-beside-the-sea, is a hiking challenge on our own doorstep thats longer and more demanding certainly in terms of the weather likely to be encountered! than any of North Americas Triple Crown trails: imagine setting off to walk the entire UK coastline.
Marry a UK coastline walk with a Lands End to John o Groats hike and a Cape Wrath to Dover epic and youve a trio of routes that should keep long distance backpackers busy for years.
I’ve outlined my proposal for such a UK Triple Crown elsewhere on my website. If we can get such a challenge recognised, and up and running, I reckon itd be a worthy rival to the American triptych, one that doesnt demand an environment-damaging flight across the pond; that doesnt involve the frustration of making plans to hike in a foreign country; and one that you can nibble away at over several years if you cant afford the time to hike one of the trails in one fell swoop.
So I was just a little bit dismayed though I wouldnt say surprised to find that Welsh farmers are upset by plans to develop an access corridor along the Welsh coastline.
One farmer, who also owns a hotel, told icWales: Something must be done. More and more people are coming here but we cant cope with all the dogs and the problems that come with them.
I hope this is nothing more than a little predictable noise being made in bid to get a little compo from the government. Its only a few years since a report commissioned by the Ramblers Association showed that walking was worth £132million to the Welsh economy back then, and generated 4800 jobs, 3000 of them in rural areas.
The message then was loud and clear: more access means more bucks and more jobs. Most problem caused by increased (some would say restored) access are usually easily overcome and often paid for by the public purse.
Its right that farmers should make a din, so their genuine needs arent overlooked and their livelihoods eroded.
But greater access is on the way and in the long run and with a little foresight, those who make their living on the coast could cash-in by providing accommodation, refreshments, baggage-lugging services and more.
The visions of an all-Wales coast path, greater English/Welsh coastal access and a round-Britain hiking challenge, are both inspiring and inspired and I suspect that little will be allowed to stand in their way.
A handful of determined folk usually hike around the UK coastline each year and the lack of an official path wont stop them but itd be a good thing for a route, or an access corridor, to have official status in order that the wheels can be set in motion for the major benefits they can bring to the economy.
And yes, everything Ive just written is driven by a selfish desire to get out and hike that coastline myself, without obstructions!